Windsor

Local MP calls for government action to stop undocumented workers on farms

A local MP is calling for action to stop the practice of bringing in undocumented migrant workers to satisfy the labour needs on farms and greenhouses.

Conservative MP for Chatham-Kent—Leamington Dave Epp says labour contractors are a problem

MP for Chatham-Kent-Leamington, Dave Epp, is calling on the federal government to take action on undocumented workers on Canadian farms. (Jason Viau/CBC)

A local MP is calling for action to stop the practice of bringing in undocumented migrant workers to satisfy the labour needs on farms and greenhouses.

Dave Epp, Conservative MP for Chatham-Kent—Leamington​ believes these workers are playing a key role in the spread of the coronavirus in Leamington and Kingsville. Those regions have been held back by the province from moving into Stage 2 of reopening due to the high rates of the disease. 

While there are protocols for living conditions under Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker program, Epp says the same rule book is not being used for those brought into the country under the table.

"There's been use of labour contractors in the industry," he said. "There's some good ones out there, but there are also those that are less than scrupulous, that are using sources of labour — some of them being undocumented — and they would come from various sources, but they've not gone through the 14 day quarantine process. They've not had the same oversight and housing conditions. They don't have the same access to health care, and that needs to change."

There have been roughly 700 COVID-19 cases in farm workers in Essex County, and two temporary foreign workers from Mexico died in Canada after testing positive for the disease. 

"The integrity of this program is threatened by the use of undocumented workers unscrupulously employed by labour recruiting agencies," Epp wrote in a statement to federal government officials Friday.

"It appears that this practice of contract labour is the primary vector for COVID-19 infections into the legitimate Temporary Foreign Worker community."

Worker advocate groups estimate there are roughly 2,000 undocumented foreign workers in Windsor-Essex.

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